Two of the top up and coming programs in NCAA Division I wrestling will meet to decide the ACC dual title for the second consecutive season. A year ago North Carolina State was 21-0 when Virginia Tech came to town on February 12th. The Wolfpack needed to beat the Hokies and Missouri in a three-day span to book their trip to Happy Valley for the NWCA dual series title match against Penn State. Instead, the ACC title went to Blacksburg as Virginia Tech took the dual and the ACC title, 19-14.
This season both teams have a single blemish on their records as Virginia Tech fell to sixth-ranked Missouri and NC State was cut down by fifth-ranked Nebraska. They both inhabit the top-10 of TOM's latest dual rankings and the winner will be the ACC representative at the NWCA national duals, though they won't be headed to the title match this time around. The Hokies are looking for their third consecutive ACC dual meet crown while NC State is trying to get back on top for the first time since 2004. The all-time series stands at 31-26-1 in favor of NC State, but the last eight meetings have gone to Virginia Tech.
With Virginia Tech sitting in front of Missouri in the coaches poll, a win here could see them host Iowa in the number two national duals match-up. That would be an incredible story line after the same match failed to materialize last season, with NC State heading to Iowa City instead, leading to accusations of conspiracies and a couple of infamous tirades from Virginia Tech head coach Kevin Dresser. The rationale held up last season by the NWCA was that NC State, even after a head-to-head loss, remained in front of the Hokies in the coaches rankings. That won't happen this season if Virginia Tech can get a win here and against South Dakota State on Sunday.
The Wolfpack are eighth in the coaches poll, just behind Missouri. An upset victory here would throw the national duals match-ups into chaos and we'd have to wait for the next round of voting to sort it out. Regardless, Pat Popolizio's crew has a tough road ahead on Saturday night. NC State is only a clear favorite at 141 and 165. They are decided underdogs at 125, 157, 174, 184, 197, and 285. 133 and 149 can be classified as toss-up matches, though past history suggests those, too, could lean towards the Hokies.
Still, all is not lost. NC State is close enough at 133, 149, and 157 that they could swing all of those matches in their favor. That sets up a scenario where they could win the dual with bonus at 141 and a win at 165. However, the Wolfpack have no margin for error, while the Hokies basically just have to win most of the matches they should to get the win. Virginia Tech's last four will be ready to slam the door if the Hokies are anywhere close when it gets to them.
You can watch the match live on ESPN3 starting at 7 pm eastern this Saturday.
No. 7 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 North Carolina State
125: #6 Joey Dance (Virginia Tech) vs. #20 Sean Fausz or Tommy Cox (NC State)
133: Dennis Gustafson (Virginia Tech) vs. Jamal Morris (NC State)
141: Brendan Ryan (Virginia Tech) vs. #2 Kevin Jack (NC State)
149: #6 Solomon Chishko (Virginia Tech) vs. #9 Sam Speno or Beau Donahue (NC State)
157: #17 Sal Mastriani (Virginia Tech) vs. Thomas Bullard (NC State)
165: David Bergida (Virginia Tech) vs. Brain Hamann (NC State)
174: #5 Zach Epperly (Virginia Tech) vs. Nick Reenan (NC State)
184: #6 Zach Zavatsky (Virginia Tech) vs. #14 Michael Macchiavello (NC State)
197: #3 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech) vs. Malik McDonald (NC State)
285: #5 Ty Walz (Virginia Tech) vs. Mike Kosoy or Michael Boykin (NC State)
Sixth-ranked Joey Dance (Virginia Tech) beat #20 Sean Fausz (NC State) twice at the tail-end of last season, including their match-up in the ACC title bout. The Hokie senior has just one loss in each of the last two regular seasons and is hoping to finish his career by finally getting back on the NCAA podium. Fausz began the season at 133 pounds and looked plenty big enough to stay up, but he has descended to the lowest weight class once again and is 6-0 since he made the move. This will be by far his toughest opponent yet at 125. The two match-ups last season were all Dance as Fausz was only able to earn a single escape in each bout while Dance had the only takedowns. The Wolfpack sophomore's length could, theoretically, give Dance trouble, but that hasn't been much of an issue so far. Expect Dance to win again by three to five points.
WrestleStat: Dance by Decision, 3-0 Virginia Tech
TOM: Dance by Decision, 3-0 Virginia Tech
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